ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION OF TAJIGUAS LANDFILL




INTRODUCTION


The Grand Jury received a letter questioning the adequacy of environmental regulation and the enforcement of existing regulations of Tajiguas Landfill.

OBJECTIVE

To determine if the county's Tajiguas Landfill is operated in a manner that meets county environmental standards.

APPROACH

Members of the Grand Jury interviewed operations personnel, department head and staff of Solid Waste Division; department head and staff of Environmental Health Services; Air Pollution Control District director; Regional Water Quality Control Board staff; and Grading Division of Planning and Development Department. Members met with residents at a community near the landfill, and visited the Tajiguas Landfill. Documents reviewed were Title 14 of the California Health and Safety Code; Solid Waste Facility Permit issued by the California Integrated Waste Management Board; County Grading Ordinance No. 3937; Solid Waste Enterprise Fund from the county's Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports of June 30, 1994, 95, and 96; a 1988 Environmental Impact Report Addendum for Tajiguas landfill expansion; groundwater monitoring plan, including test well results; excerpts from a feasibility study for a leachate collection system (Dames and Moore); county Corrective Action Plan, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board response to the plan; and past Grand Jury reports and responses.

BACKGROUND

Santa Barbara County is responsible for nine landfills. Tajiguas, owned by the county, and Foxen Canyon, which is on leased land, are actively in use. Two others are being used as transfer stations: New Cuyama and Ventucopa; and five are closed municipal sites. All must be monitored by the county. Responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the landfills is with the Solid Waste Division of the Public Works Department, which is an enterprise fund. Revenue generated from the collection and disposal of solid waste pays for the entire cost of the operation. No money comes from local taxes. Sources of revenue are franchise fees (money paid by private trash collection companies to do business in the county); tipping fees (solid waste disposal fees paid at the landfill); sale of recyclable materials; grants; and interest earned. There is a charge of 67 cents per ton on waste delivered to the landfill to pay for enforcement. (Board Resolution 94-37).

Landfills are regulated by federal, state, and county laws, regulations and permit conditions. The Federal Clean Air Act applies here. State agencies are the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), and California Environmental Protection Agency.

Local Agencies are Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District and County Fire Department. Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services is the Local Enforcement Agency (LEA) responsible for enforcement of environmental regulations, and reports to the CIWMB.

Tajiguas Landfill is the county's largest, both in area and in volume of material handled, and is located inland from Highway 101 along the Gaviota coast. It is situated on Rincon shale, which is less permeable than some rock formations. (To the north is Vaqueros sandstone, and to the south is Monterey shale). It was begun in the late 1960s, when no Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was required. Tajiguas accepts about 700 tons of waste per day from the transfer station in Santa Barbara and contracted private waste collection companies.

A small community southeast of the landfill, Arroyo Quemada, was established prior to the landfill operation. Residents have continuing complaints about blowing dust and trash, trash in the creek and ocean, and water quality in their wells and the creek which flows through their community. If residents have complaints on a weekend or after business hours, it is difficult for them to reach a staff person. A survey done by Environmental Health Services in 1975 reported that septic systems and wells were located close to each other, and that some systems were sub-standard. Currently, these conditions still exist.

OBSERVATIONS

1. Improvements


Since the Grand Jury began its study of the Tajiguas Landfill, many improvements have been proposed or initiated by the county regarding litter and dust control. Additional fences and changes in the placement of the fences are designed to control litter. Planting trees for wind breaks and using different material for litter fences are planned. Screening along the streams which carry storm runoff is proposed to prevent litter from being swept into the creek. Proposed changes in the route followed by the scraper is an effort to control dust, as is the use of wood chips to cover exposed areas. In general, some of the above proposals have been slow in being implemented; some not at all.

2. Water

According to RWQCB staff, most landfills have contaminated water, which seeps from the landfill. This is known as "leachate." Tajiguas has a leak, which forms a plume underground. The leak is a serious potential problem if it threatens to go beyond the landfill boundary. Some VOCs (volatile organic compounds) have been found in the past and in continuing sampling. A "point of compliance" is established around the landfill by RWQCB: contamination can occur within the boundary, as long as it does not go beyond. Since this is an unlined landfill, there is an ongoing leak. A collection trench was built by the county. Staff estimates that 50 percent of the leachate is recovered. Clean water flows under and around the landfill and mixes with the leachate from the landfill. This combination is the source of the contamination leak. There are eight monitoring wells (MW) on the site. Four of them are in a line down slope. The RWQCB has stated that wells should be in a triangular formation. These are used to determine the water quality and direction of the plume. There is a high level of total dissolved solids (TDS) from wells both on site and in the area around the landfill, which is a natural occurrence and not a health hazard. Layers of fill (benches) are graded to slope toward storm drains. Sedimentation basins are supposed to slow runoff and reduce silt. However, after a storm, a large area of the ocean opposite the landfill is discolored with silt.

3. Litter

The Solid Waste Facility Permit states that off-site migration of waste, litter or leachate is prohibited. Title 14 states: "Litter and loose materials shall be routinely collected and disposed of properly." Fences are used to trap blowing trash. Stationary fences are placed according to prevailing winds; portable fences are moved as needed. A project to construct a liner for the new expanded area of the landfill interferes with placement of fences. Rules require that trucks not uncover the trash until they reach the dump area. Newly dumped trash must be covered at the end of each day, using soil, chipped recycled wood, or biodegradable foam. Two full time employees supervise General Relief workers (those who receive county financial assistance), who pick up litter.

4. Erosion caused by blowing dust and storm runoff

Blowing dust is a problem due to "sundowner" winds, (which occur when the wind blows from north toward the ocean), and as a result of the use of heavy equipment during normal operation of the landfill. Soil is taken from a "borrow" site and used to cover trash. Heavy equipment must compact fill areas. Water is sprayed on the surface to hold down dust, but there is a shortage of water. Bare hillsides allow rain water to form gullies, causing silt to run off. Gullies are smoothed by grading, but vegetation is also disturbed. No grading permit is required of the county operation. However, county staff
has indicated that if they operated the landfill using practices required in the grading ordinance, the erosion problem would be greatly reduced. The Grading Ordinance No. 3937, states the following:

Sec. 14-6. SCOPE: GENERAL


Sec. 14-23 DUST DEBRIS CONTROL
All graded surfaces and materials, whether filled, excavated, transported or stockpiled, shall be wetted, protected, or contained in such a manner as to prevent the generation of dust. Construction equipment and materials on the site shall be used in such a manner as to avoid creating a public nuisance. Roadways and graded areas on the site shall be surfaced or wetted sufficiently to prevent the generation of excessive dust at all times.

Sec. 14-27. PLANTING
Exposed man-made slopes in excess of three (3) feet in vertical height from the natural contour of the land shall be planted to prevent erosion. All earth fills shall be planted and mulched with temporary vegetation, or otherwise protected from the effects of storm runoff or dust erosion within thirty (30) days of the completion of the grading....

5. Monitoring

Unannounced inspections are done monthly by a staff person from Environmental Health Services. The inspector drives around the site to see how trash is being covered. Samples of ground water are taken from the monitoring wells. Two vertical gas monitoring probes are checked for methane; however, there is no system for collecting the gas. Reports are submitted quarterly to state agencies, plus annual reports. Landfill personnel are trained to recognize hazardous materials (e.g. paint, pesticides, etc.) which are placed in a storage area and removed to an appropriate disposal site in Kettleman City. After a rain, Public Works Dept. tests surface water for leachate runoff. Water samples along the beach down gradient from the landfill will be tested as part of the new ocean water monitoring program. Traps placed on the landfill site did not find any rats. Some ground squirrels are on site, but vibrations from heavy equipment deter them.

6. Enforcement

County inspectors are state licensed Registered Environmental Health Specialists. If a violation is found, a compliance letter is sent to Solid Waste Division, with specific instances cited. A date certain for response is stated in the letter. A Stipulated Notice of Violation would be a negotiated corrective action, with phases over a timeline. A Cease and Desist Order could be given, which would close down the operation. If the county did not enforce regulations, the state would act as the enforcement agency. The RWQCB could issue a Clean Up or Abatement Order if progress is not made to correct a violation regarding water. The Air Pollution Control District (APCD) enforces air quality regulations.

Tajiguas was sent a Compliance Letter about the need for more litter control, and more people to pick up litter. Within eight days, a letter from Solid Waste Division was received by the enforcement agency which listed specific measures to correct the problem.

7. Finances

The California Audited Financial Statement for 1992-93 showed a net income for the Solid Waste Fund of $2,873,471. For 1993-94, the net income was $2,147,992. For 1994-95, net income was $2,709,586. For 1995-96, net income was $2,008,000.

COMMENDATION: The Grand Jury commends the people responsible for the operation of the landfill and their efforts at environmental compliance. Solid Waste Division manages the landfill with competent, knowledgeable personnel. Monitoring by Environmental Health Services is done by qualified staff. Enforcement is supported by RWQCB. The county is cooperative with enforcement agencies.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

FINDING 1: There are four monitoring wells (MW) in a line down gradient (down slope) from the landfill site. In order to detect the direction of the plume of contaminated leachate, wells to monitor ground water quality should be in a triangular formation. A third well is needed to triangulate with the southerly two wells, MW #3 and MW #15.

RECOMMENDATION 1: Install another well to complete the triangle.

Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response

FINDING 2: The collection trench does not contain all of the leachate; thus some is escaping from the site.


Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response

FINDING 3: Grading is done which would not be in conformity with the Grading Ordinance if done on private property. Blowing dust would be reduced by changing grading methods to conform to the county ordinance.


Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response

FINDING 4: Blowing dust is a problem. The shortage of water is a serious problem. There is not enough water to spray as needed. Water that is retained in the collection trench and reclaimed is the primary source of water used to spray for dust control. Smaller areas of the surface are being exposed as one method to control dust.

RECOMMENDATION 4a: Find additional sources of water.

Affected Agency
: Santa Barbara Public Works Department
Response


Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response

FINDING 5: Erosion is not controlled on slopes that are being actively used. Present use of grading to remove gullies does not correct the problem. Exposed areas are constantly being graded instead of using erosion control practices. Cost is a factor in use of control methods.


Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response


Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response

FINDING 6: A gas collection system, in addition to the monitoring probes, is required by the federal EPA and state Air Resources Board. The system must be operating by December of 1998.


Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response

FINDING 7: Litter escapes from the landfill, carried by wind, or by water in the creek.


Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response


Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response

FINDING 8: No personnel are available after hours or on weekends to respond to complaints.

RECOMMENDATION 8: Devise a system to have personnel on call to handle complaints.


FINDING 9: The Solid Waste Division Enterprise Fund has financial resources.


Affected Agency: Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
Response


Board of Supervisors' Response


AFFECTED AGENCIES California Penal Code Section 933(c) requires that comments to Grand Jury Findings and Recommendations be made in writing to the presiding judge of the superior court within 60 days by all affected agencies except governing bodies, which are allowed 90 days. In accordance with Section 933.05, the responding person or entity shall indicate the following:

1. The respondent agrees with the finding.

2. The respondent disagrees wholly or partially with the finding, in which case the respondent shall specify the portion that is disputed and include an explanation.

3. The recommendation has been implemented, with a summary of the implemented action.

4. The recommendation has not been implemented, but will be in the future, with a time frame.

5. The recommendation requires further analysis, with an explanation and a time frame. This time frame shall not exceed six months from the date of publication of the grand jury report.

6. The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted or is not reasonable, with an explanation.


The Grand Jury requests that all responses be submitted on a 3 inch computer disk along with the printed response.